Longbow HP Elbow Plug Saves Time and Money in Hydro-Testing

At Innovator Industrial Services, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to provide extraordinary customer service. While working with fabrication customers at various on-site jobs, our technicians noticed a need for a better, easier, and less expensive way to perform hydrostatic tests on open elbow joints. In response to this need, Innovator stepped up to the challenge and commissioned an ingenious new plug that removes an extra step—as well as the extra time and money—from the hydro-testing process: Innovator Industrial Services’ Longbow High Pressure Elbow Test Plug.

The problem

Pipe system fabrication shops, which assemble piping for customers in the oil, gas, and chemical processing industries, have always found it challenging to hydro-test piping that ends in an open elbow joint. Standard plugs don’t fit properly into the elbow pipe, and an uncompromised tight seal is essential for accurate testing and safety.

Obviously, this was an expensive and time-consuming process just to put in a plug for hydro-testing. “It’s very challenging, because in the radius inside the elbow you have different diameters changing at different angles,” explains Cam McLeod, Innovator Project Materials Coordinator. “The location of the seal is not at a tangent to the radius. It’s actually at an angle, so it increases the diameter—for example, if the pipe has a six-inch diameter, the seal may need to stretch out over a six and a half inch diameter section.”

Innovator saw how much time and effort was necessary to add and remove these pieces just to hydro-test and took the initiative to solve the problem. Working with its supplier on research and development, Innovator decided to commission a plug to fit into an open elbow joint for hydro-testing that could be easily removed when testing was done.

The ‘old solution’ was to weld a piece of straight pipe to each elbow joint so that a standard plug could be attached for testing. Then, after the test was completed, the extra piece would be removed and the elbow dressed to send to the end customer to tie into its facility. As one of Innovator’s clients commented after seeing Innovator’s new Longbow plug in use, “We in the industry had accepted that this was the only way to test open elbows. Now this new tool is a game changer”.

Turning to a trusted partner

To design and manufacture this beneficial part, Innovator turned to IK UK, world-class solution technology and isolation tool experts who have become trusted partners.

IK deals with manufacturing challenges all the time; however, developing this plug was no simple feat. It seems like a logical requirement in the hydro-testing arena, but creating a plug that would work properly and safely was a bigger challenge than one might expect. Not only did it need to meet specific hydro-testing requirements, but it also needed to be easy to install and remove.

“To have a tool sitting in the bend of a pipe requires quite complex geometry, and the precision needed to actually be able to machine it is incredible,” explains Robin Arnold, IK’s Field Service Manager. “A few years ago, it would’ve been virtually impossible to design and machine the complex shapes we needed.”

IK’s capability to develop and manufacture such highly specialized tools is unique in the industry. Arnold has worked closely with Innovator’s president, Don Cooper, on developing technologies for inspection and testing in the past, so Innovator knew that IK was up to the challenge.

The company’s modern software and robotic machining capabilities have broken through the barriers that prevented development of this tool up until now. Thanks to Innovator’s guidance and IK’s expertise, the Longbow High Pressure Elbow Test Plug became a reality, and is a measure of success. “Innovative solutions require innovative technologies, innovative thinking, and collaboration,” says Cooper. These traits carry on in all aspects of Innovator when they become your partner in building a leak free workplace.

An elegantly simple solution

The Longbow High Pressure Elbow Test Plug is the first commercially available elbow grip plug in the world. This simple, elegant tool completely eliminates the need to weld pipe caps to the pipe and remove them after testing, saving time and money on every job. The adjustable mechanism of the Longbow elbow plug is designed to work with long-radius elbow joints and can be used in both horizontal and vertical applications.

“Our president, Don Cooper,  is committed to researching, developing, and sourcing innovative technology from around the world,” McLeod says. “Innovator identified this need with the customers we are fortunate enough to serve, and with the end result, provided a solution with exceptional customer service.”

The Longbow plug is easy to understand, but training is recommended for safe use. Simply request a presentation and demo, and Innovator will provide onsite, hands-on instruction to ensure your techs can use the plug safely. Seeing the Longbow elbow plug live and getting hands-on experience is easier and more memorable than reading through the step-by-step process on paper. You can rent the Longbow High Pressure Elbow Test Plug, which is exclusively available to customers in Canada and North America through Innovator.

And if you don’t want to perform the work yourself or need additional expertise, Innovator techs are available to perform hydro-testing. Innovator’s cross-trained crews are always ready with the right skills and equipment you need to have the job done right. Just another example of why Innovator is Your Partner in Building a Leak Free Workplace.